STATING THAT “protection of life and liberty of a citizen is the basic responsibility of the state government”, the State Human Rights Commission (SHRC) on Monday directed the Jammu and Kashmir government to pay Rs 10 lakh as compensation to Farooq Ahmad Dar — the civilian who was used as a human shield by the Army to thwart stone-throwing protesters earlier this year.
The SHRC, however, didn’t rule on the role and culpability of the Army officer, citing “limited applicability of the Protection of Human Rights Act 1993 to the state of Jammu and Kashmir”.
“The report of the police accepts that Farooq Ahmad Dar… was tied to the bonnet of a vehicle and used as human shield,” SHRC chairperson Justice (retd) Bilal Nazki said in his order. “The protection of life and liberty of the people is the basic responsibility of the state government. I have no doubt in my mind that Farooq Ahmad Dar was subjected to torture and humilitaion, besides being wrongly confined. The Commission thinks it appropriate to direct the state government to pay compensation of Rs 10 lakh to the victim”.
Dar and his family declined to comment. Mohammad Ahsan Untoo, a human rights activist who represented Dar at the SHRC, said they would approach the high court. “It is good that SHRC has awarded compensation but it is not enough,” said Untoo. “We want action against the Army officer as well. We are not against a person, but the crime. We will move high court, and, if needed, Supreme Court as well,” he said.
Dar was tied to the bonnet of an Army vehicle and paraded through 19 villages in Budgam district, in central Kashmir, on April 9 — the day the bypoll for Srinagar parliamentary constituency was held. As the video of the incident went viral, the Army defended its officer, Major Leetul Nitin Gogoi. While the Army later ordered a probe into the incident, Army Chief General Bipin Rawat appreciated Gogoi’s act. In May, the officer was awarded a commendation card for counter-insurgency operations.
A week after the incident, a human rights activist approached the SHRC and sought action against the Army officials involved.
“The police maintain that this (human shield) was done by the Army,” said Justice Nazki. “There are laws in this country and international laws which prohibit such treatment even to a convict. Such treatment to a human being cannot be accepted in a civilised society. Because of the limited applicability of the protection of Human Rights Act 1993 (National Human Rights Act) to the state of Jammu and Kashmir… therefore this Commission chose not to issue notice to the central government or the Armed Forces,” he said.
Citing several Supreme Court judgments, Justice Nazki observed: “As far as law on protection of human dignity is concerned, the law of this country, as a general principle, doesn’t permit even chaining and handcuffing of any person, including convicts. How can one approve making an innocent person a human shield and parading him in chains tied to a jeep for hours?”
Ending his judgement with an observation made by Justice V R Krishna Iyer that “zoological culture cannot be compatible with reverence for life, even of a terrible criminal”, Justice Nazki directed the government to comply with the order within six weeks and asked the J&K Chief Secretary to file a compliance report.